It’s always helpful to see a band live when you’re reviewing their new album, and I write this after catching a Brooklyn gig by Rez Abbasi’s new electric group, Junction. It’s a pugilistic outfit, riding a rhythmic stream that steadily throws punches and applies physical feints to inject its rock-influenced music with a shrewd give and take vibe. The vehement nature of their performance – with drummer Kenny Grohowski (who has played in a metal band) and keyboardist Ben Stivers uniting to bolster the guitarist’s ferocious attack – echoes the action on Behind the Vibration. Here’s a post-fusion album that battles its way towards a gnarled eloquence.
The band may explode around him, but it’s the leader’s attack that shapes several of these escapades. Last time out, on Intents and Purposes, Abbasi went the unplugged route, interpreting a series of overlooked items from the classic fusion pantheon, and you could hear his signature intensity in the acoustic renderings. Here he flips the script and ups the ante. Behind the Vibration is a program of original pieces with jazz-rock DNA and an amped-up attitude, and the guitarist seems fiercer than usual. The solo he unfurls in “Groundswell” is one of his most aggressive and articulate in memory.
Abbasi’s foil is Mark Shim, whose squalls on tenor sax and MIDI Wind Controller bolster the agitation the band is smitten with. Shim’s horn also brings an earthiness to the action, tempering the keybs and electronics with a gritty R&B texture (check him on “Matter Falls”). Ditto for Strivers’ B3 organ in “Inner Context.” Along with the funeral drone of “And I You,” which could be considered a postcard version of Miles’ “He Loved Him Madly,” it provides a balance to the frenzied stuff. With whiffs of Pakistani roots music, Mahavishnu transcendence, and nu-bop fluidity, Abbasi manages a cultural mélange that goes hard while distilling its myriad elements.